As a new year dawns, the time couldn’t be better to begin a transformative goal: The Nedley Health Gratitude Challenge.
The gratitude challenge is simple: write down at least one thing that you are grateful for every day.
Some days you may be able to do more – four or five things you’re blessed with that day. But the baseline gratitude challenge is achievable. As you cultivate a spirit of intentional gratitude, you’ll notice the outlook of your day taking on a new perspective. It’s exciting to begin looking for the good in our days rather than being shadowed by the dreary that often clouds the good.
There’s a problem, however. For many, a gratitude-filled world is difficult to sustain. We are forgetful, take things for granted, have high expectations, and often assume that we are responsible for the good that comes our way. After all, often we have worked hard for it, so we’ve earned it. Although it can be very challenging to avoid wallowing in self-pity, fear, and anxiety, replacing these things for gratitude is a road to strong mental health. The gratitude challenge challenges our innate tendencies. It is a simple way to slowly change thinking pathways to become mentally resilient.
Now that we’ve issued the challenge, here’s why we believe you will profit: gratitude results in emotional, social, and career benefits, among many others.
Emotional Benefits of Gratitude
Makes us happier
Simply looking at what’s good in our lives rather than the bad makes us more likely to feel positive about our lives. Daily gratitude journaling for as little as five minutes can enhance long-term happiness by over ten percent. [i, ii]
Increases psychological well-being and self-esteem
Gratitude has a positive impact on psychological well-being, self-esteem, and reducing depression. [iii] When we are grateful, we often feel better about our circumstances, and this can lead us to feel better about ourselves. [iv]
Enhances our positive emotions
A study published in 2014 found that daily gratitude can reduce envy and facilitate positive emotions that make us more resilient!
Keeps suicidal thoughts and attempts at bay
The practice of gratitude can protect us when we are at our weakest. “A study on the effects of gratitude on depression, coping, and suicide showed that gratitude is a protective factor when it comes to suicidal ideation in stressed and depressed individuals.” [v]
Social Benefits of Gratitude
Not surprisingly, expressing gratitude to our friends has the ability of strengthening our friendships. Individuals who communicate gratitude to friends are more likely to work through concerns and problems with them and have a more positive perception of their friends. [vi] Who doesn’t want a friend like that or to be that friend?
Increases social support
Interestingly, more grateful people have access to more social support. With the lessened depression and stress that grateful people experience, there is also a lessened need to have social support. [vii]
Career Benefits of Gratitude
Makes more effective managers
Workplace gratitude is of benefit to employees and employers alike! Researchers Stone & Stone and others have documented that we are better able to give praise, improve our motivational abilities and managerial skills, and provide mentorship and guidance to employees under our management when we practice gratitude. [viii]
Reduces impatience and improves decision-making
Research has found that individuals who are more grateful are less likely to be impatient, which leads to making better decisions. [ix]
Helps us find meaning in our work
Gratitude can help people find meaning in their job, which can help people apply their strengths, have positive emotions and more hope, as well as be more likely to find their “calling.” As purpose and meaning are found in the workplace, people are more effective and fulfilled in their careers. [x]
Let’s get practical. How can we be grateful when there’s nothing to be grateful for? There can be times where it is difficult to find things to be grateful for. But instead of looking for what to be thankful for, try being thankful for what you already have. Grateful people often place less importance on material things and tend to share what they have with others. In fact, the very practice of gratitude helps us look at what we already have. There are so many things we don’t even have to think or worry about that people in other areas may have to deal with daily, such as fresh drinking water, shelter, a car, family, food, education, etc.
Have you ever experienced something satisfying when reaching out and sharing of yourself with someone else? When I focus on myself and my problems, I tend to feel sad and discouraged. However, when feeling sad, I can quickly regain joy and happiness by forgetting myself and reaching out to other people who are struggling.
How can you shift your focus? Call a friend who is discouraged and cheer them up, write a note of appreciation to a friend or a prison inmate, or visit someone who is lonely or ill. When we reach out to help others, God's love shines through us, and it fills our own hearts with overflowing joy and happiness.
Here are some practical suggestions that can and will change how you feel:
- When you’re having a hard day, make a gratitude list
- Instead of getting mad at someone, show gratitude
- Rather than sharing complaints, share gratitude (this one will revolutionize your life!)
- Keep a gratitude journal
There are and will be many times where we don't FEEL grateful, but we still can choose to be.
My story of the power of choice
I experienced a season of depression in college which was unheard of for my usually optimistic personality. But depression doesn’t respect personality and is a disease that can strike anyone when the conditions are right. I avoided social gatherings and frequently found myself crying. Every noise grated on my nerves, and I wanted distance even from the people I loved the most. Providentially, this is when I had the at-the-time unheard of opportunity of shadowing the residential program for a college requirement. Since I wasn’t a program participant, it took longer to feel different. In fact, it took two months until I hit my “aha moment.” I realized that my happiness was indeed my choice. I had the choice every morning to choose happiness, to exercise, to eat well, and to combat the negative thoughts in my head. I set my phone’s lock screen to a simple message “Choose happiness.” As I reminded myself constantly to make the choice to feel differently than I wanted to feel, to choose the thoughts that would change my emotions, to choose the lifestyle interventions that would change my body, to choose gratitude when sorrow was overwhelming, I discovered the power that set me free from the bondage I’d been battling. I’m incredibly thankful to say that there is great power in educated choice.
Take the challenge
Learn tools about changing your thinking here. I mean it, go check out all those articles now. And as you receive education on how to change your thinking, you’ll be faced with the opportunities to challenge and choose better thoughts. Choosing to find even the smallest things to be grateful for rewires your brain. Choosing gratitude is a HUGE deal in changing your mindset and giving you HOPE!
Practice gratitude by keeping a daily gratitude journal. Whether adding 3 things you’re grateful for to a journal or recounting one thing you’re grateful for out loud to someone each day, challenge yourself to regularly practicing gratitude.
Cultivating gratitude lies within the reach of each one of us. When we feel there's nothing to be grateful for, it certainly takes effort to shift our focus from what we want to what we already have, but it will change your life.".
For the last 18 years I’ve journaled every day, not because it is a compulsion, but because I’ve found incredible release and joy in daily expressing my thoughts and experiences. After learning about gratitude from Dr. Nedley, I began intentionally focusing on the things I’m grateful for. I believe the combined therapeutic practice of journaling and gratitude exercises have helped build resiliency and buoyed my positive outlook in my life, in combination with maintaining lifestyle interventions. I personally encourage you to try journaling every day for a month, with a focus on positive gratitude. Chances are that this release will also help build up the mental strengths discussed in this article.
I never want to go back on gratitude, choosing happiness, and challenging my negative thinking, and I guarantee you that once you begin, you won’t ever want to go back either!
Please accept my personal invitation to the Nedley Health Gratitude Challenge. And we’d love to hear from you. Send us your stories of the #nedleyhealthgratitudechallenge at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tag @nedleyhealth on Instagram and Facebook, and use our hastag #nedleyhealthgratitudechallenge so we can see your gratitude on social media.
[i] Emmons, R , & McCullough, M. 2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of personality and social psychology, 84(2), 377–389.
[ii] Seligman, M, et al. (2005). Positive psychology progress: empirical validation of interventions. The American psychologist,60(5), 410–421.
[iii] Lin, C. (2015). Impact of gratitude on resource development and emotional well-being. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 43, 493-504.
[iv] Rash, J.A., et al. (2011), Gratitude and Well-Being:Who Benefits the Most from a Gratitude Intervention?. Applied Psychology:Health and Well-Being, 3: 350-369.
[v] Krysinska, K., et al. (2015). Trait gratitude and suicidal ideation and behavior: an exploratory study. Crisis, 36(4), 291–296.
[vi] Lambert, N, et al. 2011). Expressing gratitude to a partner leads to more relationship maintenance behavior. Emotion (Washington,D.C.), 11(1), 52–60.
[vii] Wood, A, et al. (2008). The role of gratitude in the development of social support, stress, and depression: Two longitudinal studies. Journal of Research in Personality, 42(4), 854–871.
[viii] Di Fabio, A, et al. 2017). Gratitude inOrganizations: A Contribution for Healthy Organizational Contexts. Frontiers in psychology, 8, 2025.
[ix] DeSteno, D, et al. (2014). Gratitude: a tool for reducing economic impatience. Psychological science, 25(6), 1262–1267.
[x] Dik, B, Duffy, R, et al. (2015). Purpose and Meaning inCareer Development Applications. The Counseling Psychologist, 43(4), 558–585.